A Ku Indeed!

Confucian Tough Love

Posted in Analects, China, Course Material by Chris on January 9, 2008

When I look around I see way too many parents who let their kids get away with murder. Whether this is a problem more “nowadays” or not I don’t know. Probably not. Still, it’s annoying to watch. Their kids are never wrong, they cover up for them, they don’t make them face up to the consequences of their actions. Everything is meant to make things easy for the kid (no doubt due to some strange feeling that it is one’s duty to make your child perennially “happy” — like some character our of Brave New World).

In any case, it’s refreshing when you hear a story about a parent who really goes the other way and does what they need to do to reverse that trend. In fact, I think this is very Confucian — one shouldn’t be interested in “doping” up your kid in the sense that you assure they are always “happy” (one thinks here that the “small man” of the Analects might no doubt treat his or her children in this way). Instead, you should be clear that where a little unhappiness is needed, it should be applied and allowed to foster, given that it is focused on the right lessons. With that in mind, read this great story. Clearly Confucian values are not dead, after all. The “public” nature of the punishment seems to me very Chinese, and although tough, strangely appropriate.


2 Responses

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  1. Jason Swadley said, on January 10, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Spare the car, spoil the child I suppose. I had actually just read that article – gotta love a mom who goes out of her way to make sure EVERYONE knows where she stands.

    Where do you think Confucius would come down on spanking?

  2. Chris said, on January 11, 2008 at 2:05 am


    I don’t know what he’d say about spanking, it’s never mentioned as far as I know. My gut says that he’d be against it, but not because he’s against the use of discipline but rather because he thinks that there are better forms of discipline available. Mainly, he’d advocate instilling into a child a healthy sense of obligation and duty towards the parent and then using shame as the “spanking.” I would think that spanking would seem a bit primitive to him as a method. But I could be wrong. If you think about it, “spanking” is almost something that you _turn_ to when the more sophisticated methods of shame aren’t working. And mostly they don’t work because you did a bad job parenting and setting up those obligatory structures in the first place. So spanking shows that there’s a larger problem in the family already.

    That’s my best guess!

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